Will KeyArena be ready for the return of the Sonics?

Will KeyArena be ready for the return of the Sonics?
A sign touting an upcoming performance by the Harlem Globetrotters appears in front of KeyArena, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
SEATTLE -- Monday's news that the Sonics will likely be returning to Seattle has local basketball fans excited, but a return to KeyArena might not be as easy as some would assume.

Assuming the NBA Board of Governors approves the deal, the Sacramento Kings will soon become the Seattle SuperSonics and will play at least two seasons at KeyArena while a permanent arena is built in the SoDo neighborhood.

Since the Sonics moved away nearly 5-years ago, KeyArena has played home to WNBA and college basketball game, but the NBA is a completely different animal.

When the Kings become the Sonics, the calm neighborhood of Queen Anne will change. And that's just fine for the locals.

"You can definitely tell the influx in the neighborhood. It's great," said Mary Rey of Queen Anne's Mecca Cafe.

The Mecca Café is a block way from KeyArena, and Rey said employees are already thinking about the next NBA season.

"I think the Sonics, especially with the anticipation, will be really big," Rey said.

While its seems the neighborhood is ready, it's not clear that KeyArena will be ready.

Seattle City Councilman Tim Burgess said Chris Hansen's investment group has already been working with the mayor's office and city staff to figure out a retrofit plan for the arena.

"We don't have very long. There's a lot of work to do here," Burgess said.

The old Sonics hardwood is now in Oklahoma and next season's games still have to be scheduled before the season tips off in October.

Before that happens, the area will get $12-15 million in new improvements. That's good for fans, and it's good for the long term viability of the 50-year-old building.

"And a huge win for Seattle Center and a huge win for the city's bank account," Burgess said.

Suman Hothi of Queen Anne Liquor and Wine said sales spike when there's an event at KeyArena.

"It definitely is much busier. You see a lot of people excited and happy and better moods," Hothi said.

The Seattle Storm aren't sure what their future holds. Team officials are bullish on Hansen and a potential new area, but the team has a lease at KeyArena until 2018.